It’s not every day that a flight is canceled because a passenger spots a maintenance issue with the aircraft, but… that’s exactly what appears to have happened in the UK earlier this week? Thanks to @MGWScouseActor for flagging this.
In this post:
Passenger’s observation cancels Virgin Atlantic flight
This incident happened on Monday, January 15, 2024, and involves Virgin Atlantic flight VS127, intended to operate from Manchester (MAN) to New York (JFK). The flight was scheduled on a roughly 13-year-old Airbus A330-300 with the registration code G-VGEN.
According to media reports, just prior to departure, a passenger noticed a problem with the wing, and made the crew aware of this.
Now, ordinarily one would assume that if a random passenger notices something that looks “off,” they’re just confused, rather than there actually being something wrong. However, in this case maintenance personnel were called, and the flight ended up being canceled as a “precautionary measure,” so that relevant checks and repairs could be performed. The issue was reportedly that the tops of four fasteners on a wing panel were missing.
Here’s what a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson had to say about this cancelation:
“The VS127 from Manchester to New York JFK on 15 January, operating on an Airbus A330, was cancelled to provide time for precautionary additional engineering maintenance checks, which allowed our team the maximum time to complete their inspections.”
“The safety of our customers and crew is always our top priority and this was not compromised at any point. We always work well above industry safety standards and the aircraft is now back in service. We’d like to apologise to our customers for the delay to their journeys.”
Meanwhile here’s what the Airbus A330 engineer at the airport had to say about the issues with the aircraft:
“Aviation safety is our number one priority. The panel is a secondary structure panel, used to improve the aerodynamic performance of the aircraft.”
“Each of these panels has 119 fasteners so there was no impact to the structural integrity or load capability of the wing, and the aircraft was safe to operate. As a precautionary measure, the aircraft underwent an additional maintenance check, and the fasteners were replaced.”
How unusual that a passenger noticed this
Maintenance issues happen, so the cancelation as such isn’t the interesting part of this story, in my opinion. What I’m most intrigued by is that it was a passenger who reportedly brought this to the attention of the crew.
I can’t help but wonder about the details of that. Passengers will randomly make all kinds of observations about what they perceive to be safe or not safe, and typically it’s due to lack of understanding of how aircraft operate. That’s why airlines have detailed checklists they go through to ensure safe operation (well, except for the 737 MAX, I guess).
In this case, I wonder if it was just a random passenger who noticed this, or was it an off-duty pilot or engineer? I’m also curious how it was then escalated. Was this shared with a flight attendant, and the flight attendant decided it was worth sharing this with the pilots, or…?
A transatlantic Virgin Atlantic flight was canceled after some missing caps were discovered on a wing panel. These reportedly weren’t discovered during pre-flight checks by the crew, but rather were discovered by a passenger, who alerted the crew.
What do you make of this Virgin Atlantic flight cancelation story?